Originally published in Stepparent Magazine July 24, 2019
Chances are, right now you know someone experiencing parental alienation and don’t know it. If you’ve never heard of it, consider yourself lucky. Parental alienation is a form of emotional abuse that tears away at the very core of the relationship between parent and child. Those going through it feel out of control, depressed, devastated, victimized, hopeless and drained. Their lives are filled with countless court dates, lawyer bills, false accusations, well-child checks and police interventions. They watch helplessly as their children are indoctrinated with hate against them. They’re constantly fighting an invisible war while trying to maintain a relationship with their children who are slowly being turned into weapons against them. They struggle to find support in the court system or anywhere for that matter because parental alienation is next to impossible to prove, and even harder to stop. And all of this is happening at the hands of a vindictive ex.
To make matters worse, parents going through this devastating evil are most likely also experiencing the loss of friendships. Many will be lost because of the inability to relate or simply the lack of desire to hear about it anymore.
As victims of parental alienation, my husband and I often felt isolated and alone. We didn’t know another soul experiencing the daily battles we faced and because of that, we drew back from having relationships with those we considered outsiders. Like many, we also experienced the “friends” that stabbed us in the back and later testified against us in court. Yet, another reason why those parentally alienated seem to withdraw.
Here are 5 tips to being a friend to someone experiencing parental alienation:
#1. Unless you’ve experienced it, don’t assume you get it. Parental alienation is a war like no other. On a regular basis, my husband and I endured social services or the police at our door. We are educated, employed, law-abiding citizens. We had NEVER had our character questioned before. Yet, now our reputations and integrity were dissected at every turn. This is a tactic used by the alienating parent to reinforce the indoctrination of hate and to wear down the other parent. We are making decisions like whether to keep fighting for the children that are learning to hate us or to pay the mortgage payment. Like I said, unless you’ve lived it you can’t imagine it.
#2. No two wars are the same. If you have a friend that’s going through it already, chances are your friend’s war and mine are very different. In a study of 97 parents in 2018, 66 different alienating strategies were identified and only 11 of the same strategies were mentioned by 13 people (von Boch-Galhau, 2018). With there being an estimated 22 million of us, that leaves room for hundreds of different tactics being used. Please consider this before dosing out advice.
#3. The court system DOES NOT get it. Unless you personally have ever been to court and experienced parental alienation, don’t offer your expert court advice. Judges are blind to parental alienation and honestly aren’t interested in hearing about it. Additionally, court never goes the way you think it will. We followed the law and never broke the parenting agreement. My husband’s ex-wife beat the kids, hid them and violated every single court order and STILL wound up with custody. As of right now, it’s recognized in only Colorado, Brazil and Mexico. Not only are we fighting for the souls of our children, but now we’re facing a court system that doesn’t want to hear about it.
#4. Don’t get your feelings hurt when we don’t have time for you. Not only are we fighting an angry ex and the court system, but as the indoctrination of hate takes hold, we are now fighting the very children we are desperately draining our bank accounts to save in court. Parental alienation is a slow fade. It doesn’t happen overnight. It starts small. Children that once loved the dogs is suddenly very critical of them and starts sticky brushing the furniture as soon as they arrive for their visit. In parental alienation, a child is taught to not just hate the other parent, but to despise everything about the other parent. Over the course of ten years, I watched my stepchildren be turned against vacations, scuba diving, cars, dogs, and our home. There is nothing off limits to an alienating parent!
#5. Make a choice- either be a friend and stick
it out or peace out. Parentally
alienated parents don’t have time for shallow, empty relationships. Not only are they in the fight of their
lives, but they’re also struggling to get out of bed, make it through the day
and get home to fight their wars after work.
It’s a long, tough and devastating battle. Make a choice. If you decide to stick it out, stay for the
long haul. In most cases, your friend’s
parental alienation nightmare will end with their children completely cutting
all ties. Your support can be vital to
their survival. But choose. Either be a friend or walk away. Your inability to commit only exacerbates the
feelings of loss and hopelessness they’re already experiencing.
Parental alienation is a war of attrition. The alienating parent’s sole mission is to destroy the other parent by turning the children against him or her. To the targeted parent, it’s like watching an avalanche happening and trying to stay ahead of what’s most likely inevitable. If the alienating parent is successful, the loss will be devastating. Your friendship can become vital to an alienated parent’s existence.